No Jurisdiction – A Parliamentary matter
Update (9/23/18): Hopefully, this edition will give advocates a clearer view of how their efforts may need to include additional steps.
Those in the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference raising the questions of law made a very common mistake. They forgot to follow a fundamental parliamentary procedure to get the annual conference to actually vote on something that could then be brought to the Judicial Council.
The bishop ruled a resolution out of order that had been raised and printed in the pre-conference report. The questioners apparently thought that getting it in the pre-conference journal constituted an action of the conference that could be reviewed by the Council. They had gone to a great deal of trouble to establish a paper trail regarding their desire to ask questions of law related to their concern. However, the bishop’s ruling that the resolution was out of order was a presider’s action, not a conference action. As a presider’s action, it was considered “parliamentary” by the Council, something that should have been resolved at the conference level before being sent to the Council.
To be a conference action, the questioners should have challenged the ruling of the bishop to the house (plenary session). It is doubtful that a vote by the plenary that supported the bishop would have been sufficient grounds for the Council to be able to take jurisdiction and rule on the resolution. Had the vote gone against the bishop’s ruling, that would have put the resolution before the body where either a positive or negative vote could have constituted a conference action and thus propelled questions of law about it into the wheelhouse of the Council.
In any case, the effort to challenge the bishop’s ruling did not occur in this case so the Council had no hook to take jurisdiction.
Essentially the bishop’s ruling that at least a part of the original resolution was in violation of the Discipline stands because the resolution was not passed.
Finally let me add that this bishop was probably advised incorrectly by some fellow bishops to refuse to acknowledge the questions of law because she had already ruled the resolutions out of order. The rules of the Council require that the bishop report any questions of law raised, including those on matters the bishop felt were out of order. The bishop, in that report to the Council, could then spell out why such questions were inappropriate. Wisely, the bishop followed the Council’s rule on this and did not play power politics which those other bishops may have advised her to do.